Bribing Your Way to Victory

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Never. Sell. Power. This is seriously micro-trans 101, but we still seem to have this temptation to squeeze the maximum amount of money out of our players by selling them things that alter the balance of gameplay."

Daniel Floyd, Extra Credits

Don't feel like doing a quest to get the reward? Don't care about taking the time to unlock the game's super ultra secrets? Or perhaps you just suck at it?

You may be in luck. For a "modest fee", the game's developers might be willing to sell you "something extra" to "boost your performance". Don't worry, it's "not really cheating" since anybody else could do the same, and you gotta trust the game's developers on this, right?

Rejoice, gamers, for now we can have Truth in Television, eh, Video Game FUs, where only the rich kids will have all the cool stuff. And making games more realistic always is a plus, eh?

Some online games do such a thing as a response to Real Money Trade, on the logic that players would do it anyway. The sister trope is the Allegedly Free Game, which advertises itself as "free to play" but requires purchases to unlock content, up to and including higher levels and/or the actual ending. To clarify, the difference between these tropes is that Real Money Trade is forbidden by the game's developers, while an Allegedly Free Game cannot be played in its entirety without paying money, and Bribing Your Way To Victory allows you to buy better stuff but doesn't lock you out of content.

A Real Life subset of Screw the Rules, I Have Money.

See also Revenue Enhancing Devices. In-game money doesn't count; it has to be real money.

Not related to Crimefighting with Cash.

Examples of Bribing Your Way to Victory include:

Tabletop Games

Card Games

  • The Munchkin series of card games has a set of official T-shirts. According to the official tournament rules, wearing one of these shirts grants special powers, such as the ability to draw extra cards and increasing the amount of treasure you get when killing monsters. It also has a series of bookmarks that cancels out the effect of the t-shirts. In fact, all Munchkin related products affect the card game in some way.
    • Possibly the most outrageous example ever? A cookie.
    • One card lets you go up one level by, in the card description, bribing the GM with pizza.
  • Seen as the downfall of many a Collectible Card Game. It's not bad enough when players, (stereo)typically spoiled little kids who can scream "BUY ME THAT ULTRA-SUPER-DELUXE MEGARARE!" at their parents, can buy the rare and powerful cards or even entire pre-built "munchkin" decks from shops and collectors, but then the actual makers of the game have to get in on the act with "Buy this cheap tin box 'storage bin' and get a deluxe chromium omegarare card free! Only thirty bucks!"
    • Somewhat inverted when Wizards of the Coast released a Magic: The Gathering boxset containing tournament-winning decks from two of the best professional Magic players, including several expensive rares. The catch was that the cards had visual notifiers marking them as not tournament-legal, and thus effectively worthless on the resale market.
      • Furthermore, there are 'Limited format' tournaments, where the price of entry (around $20) includes several packs of cards, which the tournament participants must then make decks out of (in some versions, the player is limited to whichever packs were given him at random; in others, the players pass the packs around the table and pick a single card). At the end, cards are kept (though rares are sometimes put aside to be handed out, with higher ranking participants going first). Because cards are chosen non-randomly, this is actually a cheaper method of obtaining the cards you want.
        • As said above, this trope is normally completely averted in limited formats. However it is played straight with in the Magic Extra Life 2016 charity event (the "Donation Sealed" portion), in which players can use as many boosters as you want (with money being the limiting factor), instead of using only six and being stuck with boosters from the same set as everyone else. Those boosters cost money, of course (which helps the charity), and viewers can pay for the packs to increase their favorite player's card pool, which increases the quality of that players deck, which increases that players chance of winning. One player had a cardpool of 13 boosters! Also when Harry Teasley was mana-screwed, Matt Tabak (A commentator on the match and one of mtg's former Rules Manager) offered to fix the problem for a donation.
      • Magic: The Gathering however also plays this totally straight with the introduction of a new level of rarity. On top of Common, Uncommon and Rare, are the new so-called Mythic Rares—which tend to not only be powerful, but for the tournament-worthy ones, very costly to buy. It used to be you needed to dig back into Arabian Nights for an $80 card, but say hello to the mind sculptor...
    • Averted by the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, which managed to work Screw the Money, I Have Rules into the rules. Many conflicts in the game are resolved by chance, but instead of rolling dice you draw the top card of your deck and check its "Destiny" value, which goes from 0 to 7. Cards which were rare, powerful and expensive had low Destiny, whereas the common and sucky ones had high values. Thus, players with cheaper cards get more luck. (In the end, it actually didn't work, but it was still a nice try.)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!! is a major offender (yet not at Munchkin levels), although for very different reasons. UDE has an annoying habit of increasing the number and rarity of cards in the expansion sets before releasing them, as well as making it easy for retailers to pluck those cards out and sell them as singles. The only people able to get the better cards are either rich enough to buy them from the retailer, at high prices; buy whole boxes, at high prices; or have the luck to find an honest retailer.
    • Ever since UDE was dropped as a distributor in the West, Konami has continued the practice, but toned down the blatant practice slightly. Their rarities get shuffled, but at most a card doesn't go higher than Ultra Rare (compared to UDE's 'powerful card=highest rarity possible' tactic. The more useful cards get bumped down a bit, like Blackwing - Sirocco of the Dawn, a cornerstone piece in a Blackwing Deck, one very powerful deckstype, is a Common in US, compared to the Japanese Super Rare.
      • For a very blatant example of UDE's tactic: Dark Armed Dragon, at one point in the metagame the most expensive single card ever, is in the U.S. Secret Rare (one per box maximum chance, and a box is around 30 9-card packs) while the Japanese version is a Rare (second lowest in rarity) and can be found in one of every five 5-card packs). It is a very common joke for a Japanese/non-US player to stumble upon an American bidding of the card and go, "80USD for a rare?!"
    • Also, the US tend to release TCG exclusive cards that can only be found in the US version pack, with the minimum rarity of it an Ultra Rare (3 Ultra Rares per Box). In retaliation of this, the OCG (Japanese/Asian base) also create exclusives but make them a 100% guaranteed pick from boosters (usually dedicated packs costing double the regular price of a booster), but also reprint TCG exclusives and make them dirt-cheap commons at worst or Super Rare (a rarity level below Ultra) at best.
  • The Illuminati: New World Order SubGenius set has a card with a special ability that is activated by sending one dollar to the SubGenius Foundation. The card suggests that the other players require the user to actually mail the dollar.
  • You can play Alteil for free forever, getting all cards, even. Just don't expect to expand your deck as quickly as those who are willing to dish out dough. Oh, and there are also some cool customization stuff you can get with cash, but it is entirely optional.
  • Like Alteil, Shadow Era is a completely free, cross-platform CCG. Players who don't pay aren't limited by what they can get, only by how long it will take to get it.
  • The Pokémon Trading Card Game, as of the Pokémon Black and White sets, has increased the rarity of the most powerful cards. This is a bane for not only players looking for some of these specific cards, but for collectors, as the quantity of these cards have increased too, requiring the spending of 3 to 4 times as much money to obtain a complete set than before.

Tabletop RPGs

  • The live-action role-playing game NERO plays this very straight - you can straight out buy experience points with real-world money.
    • There was a company which hired temporary workers by paying them in NERO experience points instead of dollars. They had to stop when someone pointed out that they were paying them the equivalent of 67c per hour, which is far below the legal minimum wage. And yet, some of the players preferred this to getting real money!
  • The parodic roleplaying game Violence: the Role-Playing Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed allows a player to improve his character's stats by paying the Game Master, or by sending money to the game's author.
  • Tracy Hickman, fantasy author and Dragonlance co-creator, often ran a "Killer Breakfast" joke role-playing event at conventions. Attendees would buy tickets for a chance to play pre-generated characters whom Mr. Hickman would kill out of the game as quickly as Rule of Funny allowed. Blatantly bribing him with snack food was often the best way to deflect his lethal attention to somebody else's character.

War Games

  • While Games Workshop mostly averts this trope by making everything outrageously expensive, on average each faction will have at least one figurine that is only available in "Fine-Cast" resin. Eldar Wraithguard or Dark Eldar Beastmaster. One player calculated you would have to pay an excess of $400 for the points equivalent of a 75 dollar tank of another faction, if you decided to buy the GW versions of the beasts and the beastmaster — which you will have to do if you wish to play with them during a tournament, as non-Games Workshop models are officially prohibited during tournaments.

Video Games

  • This trope, Allegedly Free Game, and Revenue Enhancing Devices are the foundation for the business model of just about every free MMO game out there; particularly Korean MMORPGs.
  • In Test Drive Unlimited 2, preordering the game from Walmart gives you the most powerful car in the game, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, which blows all the other cars away in the majority of competitions, until eventually, some of the non-preorder cars were buffed to make them competitive.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers and its subsequent xpacs each contain numerous decks and cards that can be unlocked through play. Each deck can be unlocked through playing the campaign, and each deck, including the starting decks, have between 15 and 25 additional cards that really must be unlocked in order for the deck to actually be competitive in online multiplayer play. Each win with each unlocked deck unlocks... one card. So, you either need you endlessly grind the campaign with each and every single deck, you could pay a buck for a full deck unlock.
  • In the West, originally, Pokémon was marketed so that players were encouraged to make friends with each other and trade their Pokemon around to collect all 150 of them... Instead, this taught kids to buy multiple GameBoys and every single cartridge. ... Win?
    • At least until the addition of the Global Trade Station in Gen. IV. You can trade for any Pokemon you've seen before. Gen. V also added GTS Negotiations, where you can negotiate with others for any Pokemon.
  • Madden NFL 10, at least for the Play Station 3, has gone absolutely insane with it. It's bad enough that they expect you to shell out ten dollars to purchase an "AFC LEGACY PACK" that's just a few different costumes and stadiums that in all honesty should have just come with the game in retail. But for the first time, inputting cheat codes for the single player games isn't a matter of using 'cards' awarded in game for good play, but rather purchasing the use of those cheat codes online in the PlayStation Store. Not to mention the new "Madden Ultimate Online" mode, which is like any other online mode, but with the added fun of shelling out $5 a pack for 11 cards, and needing a deck of 100 cards to play. Oh, and those cards you just paid real life money for? They disappear from your account forever after playing enough online games with them (usually around 6), forcing you to buy more packs.
    • Madden's college counterpart, NCAA 10, is slightly less insane about it. You can pay for dynasty accelerators, such as recruiting reports (they give you a leg up in recruiting new players) and a 'Toughest Places to Play' boost (it bumps your stadium higher on the list of toughest stadiums to play in, which rattles visiting teams). Quite a lot of people, this troper included (who plays on All-American, the second-highest difficulty) don't bother with the accelerators because they're unnecessary. I don't recall if it was ever patched, but there was a lot of controversy over players using the accelerators in Online Dynasty, which gave them an advantage over the other OD players.
  • Bloodline Champions allows you to obtain all the characters by paying real money for them.
  • In most online Shooters for the PC, the games are hosted by private parties who dedicate a computer to act as the server. Since the cost of a server and high-speed internet connection is prohibitive, some offer admin power to those who donate. With admin rights comes the ability to choose maps which you are more comfortable with, or boot players with the disrespect to actually kill you, or to play in a way you don't like.
    • Team Fortress 2 has some non-VAC servers with "premium" options for donators. Want to deploy 10 mini-sentries without using metal or as a Spy have a Dead Ringer that is instant-refill so you can "die" 40 times in a minute? Knock yourself out! As long as you pay and want to unbalance the game horribly. Thankfully, these are completely unofficial and the secure Valve servers are much more balanced.
  • Equipment (and very rarely, a Nice Hat) still Randomly Drops in Team Fortress 2, but if you're impatient (or you got one of those mystery crates that need a key to open), you'll be tempted to shell out money for stuff.
  • In the free MUD Achaea, players can use "credits" to purchase skill bonuses and powerful magic items, or sell them for gold. Credits can be bought with game currency ("gold sovereigns") from people doing the latter, or (much more quickly and easily) with real money. Actually, the company that makes it, Iron Realms Entertainment, is a major fan of this trope, having it put into place on all their MUDs as well as the upcoming MMORPG Earth Eternal.
    • In fact, this is so powerful it's almost a game breaker - the different factions all have pretty standard rules on how high any particular guild skill can be while at any particular guild level, to stop people just buying complete mastery of every skill practically the moment they join a guild. You can also effectively convert credits into cold hard (in-game) cash, therefore making it quite easy to have a completely maxed out character with nothing but the best equipment for practically zero effort and little expenditure.
  • The online golf game Pangya (formerly Albatross18) has two kinds of stat-boosting items: Pang items, which you pay for using the in-game currency that you earn by playing golf, and Cookie items, which you pay for with real money. The incentive? The better Pang items frequently have limiters of the form "you must be over a certain rank to use this item", meaning that you have to have a lot of XP as well as Pang to get them.
  • Atlantica Online, like many other free to play MMO's, makes its money by means of an Item Mall, where various items can be bought for real cash, such as the Blessing Potion (which makes the players group much stronger for a limited time), Mounts (faster movement and other boni) or certain valuable items that can also be gotten ingame. All these items can also be traded with other players, allowing customers to make ingame money for real money as well, provided they can find someone rich enough. Some items are also occasionally given away for free or can be found during seasonal events.
  • Burnout Paradise has a variety of downloadable content, the majority of which is new vehicles. One pair of cars, sold as the Boost Specials pack, have clear "you bought it, you win" traits. The Carson Extreme Hotrod is one of the fastest, if not THE fastest car in the game, and uses a special Locked Boost where you can boost any time after the gauge is half-full, and you never stop boosting until you slam on the brakes, spin out or crash. The Montgomery Hawker Mech can switch between all three standard boost modes- Aggression (Takedowns extend the gauge, aggressive driving fills it up quicker), Speed (Can only boost at full power, but using it all in one go causes a Burnout which refills it, and you can chain Burnouts to keep boosting), and Stunt (Stunts and tricks fill up the gauge faster).
    • There's also the "Legendary Cars" pack, which includes homages to 4 classic movie/TV cars. The homage to KITT (sadly, the modern KITT, not the old one), called the Nighthawk GT, is among the fastest cars in the game, handles very well, and has a maxed strength rating. To top it off, however, when boosting, the car deploys a spoiler, making it handle better than it did before boosting.
      • It goes without saying that the Nighthawk GT and the Carson Extreme did indeed turn out to be the best cars, and of course they aren't in the same pack. The third car that was competitive with both, the last car in the regular game (a police interceptor edition of a F1 car) was, of course, nerfed too.
  • Various box sets of City of Heroes, City of Villains, or both had special bonus powers available to their purchasers; these are available separately from the game software itself for a small fee. Probably related are the Veteran's Rewards, extra goodies which are received for every three months of subscription to the game; at least two of these are permanent versions of special powers that can only be acquired temporarily through normal play. None of it, however, actually gives a play advantage that can't be acquired (eventually) through normal play.
    • Since the resurrection of the game in 2019, all these powers (and more) are available for anywhere from free to 10,000,000 inf (the in-game currency) at the amusingly-named "Pay To Win" vendors found in several low-level zones (including the tutorials).
  • In the first Dead Space, it's possible to download one of several DLC suits (some of which come with extra weapon skins). While most of them (the Elite and Obsidian) only provided marginal defense, ponying up $4 could either get you the Scorpion Suit (which included three upgraded weapons that fired faster than their original variants) or the Advanced Unitology Suit (which has double the damage resistance of the Scorpion, making it the best protection in the game, plus three upgraded weapons that dealt more damage). Disc One Nuke and Game Breaker doesn't begin to describe it.
    • In Dead Space 2, you can buy one of several DLC packs (including any one of nine different suits) that give you small bonuses (5-10% increases to either damage, reload or firing speed). Interestingly, the developers seemed to have learned their lesson from the previous game, because almost all of these suits only give you a small advantage compared to their DLC predecessors.
  • In the NCSoft MMORPG Dungeon Runners, the game itself is free to play. However, if you want item storage, stackable recovery items (potions), or indeed to be able to use any item above the green (2nd tier) quality level - then you have to pay for a subscription. There's also talk about some items being buyable with real money. Two of their rewer releases, Exteel and Aion, have similar things in the works.
  • Several "plug-ins" available for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion add additional content. "Unfortunately", some of this content is heavily unbalanced and introduces some Game Breaker capabilities to even the lowest of levels (including a dagger that has the chance of a One-Hit Kill). Most of the material was later included in the Expansion Pack Knights of the Nine.
  • In eRepublik, the current[when?] eUS vice President spent approximately 9000 in the last 3 months; this is more the exception rather than the rule.
    • However, quite a few players still pay real money, but no where near as much as the above example.
    • For those who don't know eRepublik: There are national currencies, and there's Gold. You need Gold for everything good (but not basic needs). You can get it in-game in several ways, but you can also buy it for very real money. However, you can only buy gold with cash once per week (and up to a certain amount).
  • Cyber Nations lets players get free tech levels, infrastructure, land, and in-game cash in exchange for donations, but limits players to one donation per month. It's not essential, but it can lead to a nice boost in tax collections if timed right.
  • Space MMORPG EVE Online quickly became tired of Real Money Trading. The Solution? for 15 bucks, you can buy a Game Time Card and "sell" it for in-game money through a system EVE's developers put in themselves. Conversely, if one generates enough in-game currency then one can pay for their subscription entirely in-game without spending a single real-world penny.
    • This has been taken to its (il)logical extreme by an extremely wealthy player financing his entire alliance by buying GTCs and selling them for in-game currency.
    • Eve also has an interesting subversion: It's perfectly acceptable to buy a character from another player using in-game currency. Either the buyer already earned it the hard way by grinding, or they don't have the Metagame experience and will quickly get themselves blown up. Potentially losing thousands of RealLife dollars/euros/etc. in the process.
    • Because Eve Online's time cards (PLEXes) are 'real' items within the game, it's possible to lose them, or have them stolen, if you're not careful. Thus was the horror of a player who lost $1,295 worth of them - to a pirate who blew them up. For the Evulz, indeed.
  • Final Fantasy XI. The Fan Fest convention has always had in-game items handed out to players who paid the ticket price and attended (or a while back, just pay the ticket price, and get the item code mailed, but this was stopped since too many people bought tickets and never showed up), the server transfers for characters, and they have been selling real-life accessories with codes for in-game items. The usefulness of the items is nifty at best, since most of them can only be used every few days, and it's no Game Breaker. Considering the SE Tax, however, you'd think it would be. Still, if you wanna have any moogle-themed gear...
    • Also, the equipment you can get at the end of the "add-on scenarios," which each cost $10 and provide "content" (mostly involving lazy fetch quests) you can beat in a matter of hours, can be augmented with a wide variety of customized stats, including some variations you physically cannot get any other way. The first gear released this way was blatantly overpowered (in some cases eclipsing gear it takes some players over a year to get), but it got increasingly toned down in the next two. Sadly, the add-on scenarios didn't get any more fun as a result of this.
  • Forum Warz has various "Illegal Game Enhancements" that give you a ton of forum visits, a lot of cash, or an insta-kill ability. However, this completely disables all the multiplayer functions unless you pay for another enhancement to remove it.
  • Games published by the Simutronics Corporation, its flagship game being the MUD Gem Stone IV, offer a "premium" membership for an extra $10 on top of the $15 a month membership fee. This membership offers access to a few otherwise off-limits areas, the ability to create several extra characters on the same account rather than just one, early access to in-game events, and the ability to type more than one line ahead (no, really). That last one, to the company's credit, isn't really an issue anymore, as the game normally registers commands so fast that you can't tell the difference.
    • They also offer a so-called "platinum" service which offers all that, plus the ability to play on a different server away from all the riff-raff for an extra $40 or so a month.
  • In the Xbox 360 version of The Godfather: The Game, players have the option of buying weapons and upgrades off of the Xbox Live Marketplace.
  • So you're a Guild Wars player and you want more character slots to experiment with? Buy them from the in-game store. Want to PvP without spending fruitless hours playing the PvE game to unlock various skills, weapons, and armour? Buy PvP unlock packs from the in-game store. It may not have been the first game on the market to do this, but it sure as hell made it a lot easier to do so.
    • Also, in Guild Wars, preordering the game or any of the expansions would give the player a special weapon. This weapon usually would be useful well into the middle of the game, and even afterward, could make a good backup. Seeing as how which bonus you'd get depended on where you preordered, this meant most players, if they had any, had one item. There wasn't anything stopping someone from going and getting a second preorder at another store, however, and thus massing more items. The preorder items could also be recalled at any time if they were trashed. The only downside was that they couldn't be traded, as they were customized.
  • Gunbound allowed its members to purchase exclusive weapons to be used in battles. Every last one of which was a blatant Game Breaker. Mixed in with the fact that there was no way for the mod to stop them from being used, this is accepted as the reason for Gunbound's death.
  • The free web-based MMORPG Kingdom of Loathing allows one to "donate" for Mr. Accessories, powerful equipment in their own right, which one can trade at "Mr. Store" to get the Item Of The Month. While there is a "Hardcore mode" where one cannot access equipment bought this way, a familiar or a skill purchased can still be used. This has resulted in quite a bit of debate among players (as well as a meme, "X makes hardcore easier!"). These items, however, are fully tradeable, so they can be acquired without donating. Furthermore, the newer "Bad Moon" runs eliminate even the familiar or skill advantage.
    • You also have to level up your familiar to make them worth using, which takes time and any item that's dropped by the familiar is dropped so often it's easy for people with lower budgets to buy the items from the mall. So purchasable familiars that unlock content are really there for making money and showing off.
    • Players making an honest attempt at a competitive Speed Run will sometimes donate $20 or $30 to gain a few copies of an item that dramatically improves item drops, though at this point there are enough better items out there which occupy the same slot that this strategy is generally considered obsolete.
    • You can also sell it at the Mall for several million meat, as well as trade it for custom avatars and titles.
  • Mabinogi, as is typical for a Korean MMORPG, has a good deal of this. Originally starting as an Allegedly Free Game by restricting storyline quests, Empathic Weapons, character rebirth (a vital game mechanic), and certain other content to paid subscribers only; the "Pioneers of Iria" expansion released all content to free players, including empathic weapons and free character rebirth. Despite this, there remain a considerable number of game-enhancing features that are only available in the premium cash shop, or to premium subscribers.
    • Prior to "Pioneers of Iria", free players were limited to a single character. With "Iria", they can have a total of 3 characters, one of each race (provided they create a Human character first, and obtain the other two through a simple in-game process). Additional characters are available via buying additional character-slot "cards". While this does not necessarily provide an advantage to game play as such; having additional characters, commonly known as "mules", available for storage is highly beneficial. Especially when working on crafting and other item-intensive "life skills".
    • Pets, only available as a premium purchase, are also a extremely useful. Not only do they provide multiple combat support functions, but all pets have some level of storage capacity. Many have other special features such as providing transportation (mounts); easier access to crafting items, which can be difficult or time-consuming to obtain via free sources; and aquisition of random, potentially valuable, items. There are even multiple combat techniques which rely entirely on the use of pets.
    • Many equips and crafting resources are available by buying "gachapons", random items selected from a particular pool. While some of the equips are only available this way, there are none that are superior to those obtainable in-game; and all crafting resources are obtainable in-game. However, most of these involve a considerable amount of effort and difficulty to obtain; so buying them via gachapons can greatly aid the player.
    • A number of other game-enhancing products are only available as paid premium. These include items which increase the rates of experience point gain and monster drops, various types of resurrection aids, temporary stat alteration, equipment protection, and more.
  • In the long-since-defunct MUD MUDgik, players could earn "orrins" either by direct payment or by visiting a page full of banner ads and clicking them to generate ad revenue. Orrins were the only way to maximize stats while staying at level one, which was essential to maximize character growth when leveling up (and was the only way to be taken seriously as a player).
  • To unlock cars early in Need for Speed: Carbon, Pro Street or Undercover, buy them for real money on XBox Live or PSN store.
  • Purchasing the limited edition of Neverwinter Nights 2 scored you the "Blessed of Waukeen" feat, which gave all your saving throws +1, and gave you the ability to buy special weapons and armor from certain merchants. Eventually, a patch made this feat available in the regular game as well.
    • However, the special gear is somewhat on the same level as gear available from other vendors when it is possible to purchase it, in addition to the pricing being almost comparable to the prestige class-exclusive equipment(which could range from moderately expensive to almost two whole acts worth of gold).
  • Project Torque, a free Massive Multiplayer Online Racing Game, revolves around racing with fantasy cars - unless the player purchases (or wins via community events) a certain number of AP (special in-game currency, the normal currency being RP, or "Reward Points"), which allows him to purchase exclusive extras like longer lasting nitros, double XP or double Reward Points alongside with real life cars. The kicker? Items that can actually help a player during a race and car upgrades can be purchased anyway without using AP, and the real life cars are not better in anyway than their "free" counterparts - in some case being worse, forcing the player to spend more hours grinding in order to get extra upgrades to match their "free" opponent.
  • Sven Coop, a mod for Half Life, allows people to "donate" money to its creators for permanent weapon enhancements—namely, their Uzis do double damage, and they can use armor to boost the damage on their melee weapon.
  • A trend in online games such as Adventure Quest and Race War Kingdoms is to have some content that is accessible for free, but then to have power upgrades and additional content accessible only for a price. The Trope: Allegedly Free Game
  • But this practice is much older than MMORPGs. In the early nineties (i.e. before the proliferation of the innerwebs), shareware producers for the PC (in particular, Apogee) used to sell you the cheat codes for their games. While not necessarily called "cheat codes", anything that provides infinite lives or invulnerability... well...
  • Tetris Online Japan. You use TP to increase your stats, which affect how many piece previews you can see, how fast pieces move across the field when you hold left or right, the speed of the line clear animation, and so on. The higher the stat, the faster you can play. Of course, this can give quite an advantage. TP is earned by playing and winning games, at 10-34 TP per game depending on performance. It also takes a total of 9,700 TP to max out each stat of the 5 stats. But for 105 yen each, you can buy a "Point Scratch" that gives a random amount from 500-10,000 TP when used. "Premium" version subscribers paying 315 yen a month get another 300 TP per month.
    • And it just got even worse. They nerfed the TP gains for non-subscribers to is 1-11 TP per game. Meanwhile, premium subscribers get 1,000 TP a month. The official message explaining this said it was for "balance" purposes. The only balancing going on there is in their checkbooks.
    • And now the US version, Tetris Friends, has a similar deal. The "Tuning Style" (i.e. non-cosmetic) upgrades can be bought with Tokens (earned from playing, like TP) or Rubies (bought with cash, or through TrialPay). For an idea of the amount of grind needed, fully upgrading everything requires 210,000 Tokens, when it's rare to see 100 Tokens awarded for a single game. Or you can pay for about 7 bucks worth of Rubies.
    • Tetris Friends then proceeded to add items which allow players to artificially inflate their Arena skill rating points. For about a dollar per day, you can double your increase in rating points for wins, or you can buy "Armor" to absorb your rating points losses for about $2.50 per 1,000 points (with the scale going from 0 to 19,999). And you can have both active simultaneously. As a result, the entire Top 100 leader board is tied for first place at the rating cap of 19,999. Arpad Elo must be rolling in his grave.
  • Probably the single biggest example would be Zhengtu Online, a Chinese MMORPG deliberately designed from the ground up for gold buyers. The game physically blocks you from advancing without buying experience and items for real world money. See this article for how blatantly the game nickels and dimes its players. Oh, and it's the single most popular game in China by a long shot...
  • Combat Arms has a lot of equipment that can only be bought, or more often, rented, with real money. Earlier in the game's history, the items you could buy were either purely cosmetic or very slightly better than the weapons rentable with game currency. But they are drawing nearer to Game Breaker status with every new addition as the developers attempt to lure more players into Bribing Their Way To Victory.
  • Older Than They Think: The arcade version of Double Dragon 3 featured item shops where you could purchase power-ups literally (i.e. by inserting more credits into the cabinet). Each power-up costs at least one credit each, the same price you would usually pay to continue after a Game Over (depending on the game's settings). The available items include other playable characters that replaces your current fighter after he dies, two extra techniques (a cyclone spin kick and an overhead attack), a max health extension, weapons, and an increase in attack speed. As if that wasn't enough, your backup fighters can only inherit the extra moves from previous characters, since they start off with the default max health and attack speed, and only the Lee brothers (the default fighters) can use weapons. And if all your backup fighters die and you decide to continue, you will lose your extra techniques as well.
  • In the arcade version of Gauntlet (1985 video game), you can buy extra health by inserting more tokens. A test in MAME revealed that if you had enough tokens, you could buy over 100,000 health, even though your health counter only shows the last five digits.
    • However, if you tried this your score would be divided by the number of credits, so this didn't actually let you do better in the game as far as score was concerned, and could even hurt.
  • The 'real time tactics simulation' game Navy Field can be played for free. However paying for a 'gold' account gives you double experience points from battles and you can buy special (aka game breaking) ships and weapons using real money. Ironically this doesn't always help as certain groups of free players will specifically target premium ships.
    • The disparity in terms of playability between those who pay and those who do not is so great, that this may even belong under "Allegedly Free Game." As if more evidence was needed, I suppose you could argue that non-paying players are limited in the amount of the game they are allowed to see, since they are generally denied their rights. In disputes, the mods and GMs are INFAMOUS for almost always siding with the player that pays more. Hell, it's called $DE for a reason.
  • Battle Stations allows the player to buy rare items, which usually require a lot of luck-based exploring or questing to acquire. There are, however, three items for sale which cannot be found via exploration. These items can be traded on the ingame auction, though, so a wealthy character could try and get them there instead.
    • Also in the cash shop are Action Point packages, allowing the player to gain more Ap than the regular Ap regeneration provides.
  • The free, browser-based Star Pirates (and Spy Battle from same Creators) lets you subscribe to recharge stats and progress half again as fast, buy points that let you take certain actions again, and buy items that let you train abilities quicker.
    • That said, both Points and items needed for quicker training can be found by playing normally
  • Gaia Online features two currencies: Gold (generated in game), and Cash (purchased with real money). Three stores (La Victoire, Back Alley Bargains, and Phin Phang) only accept Cash. La Victoire sells exclusive items with spectacular poses. Back Alley Bargains sells powerups for use in zOMG, and Phin Phang sells fish for your aquarium. With the exception of the zOMG Powerups (which can still rarely be obtained through gameplay, and aren't needed to begin with) all items can be purchased with gold. Though buying and selling items from La Victoire is one of the best ways to make gold.
    • For that matter almost since Gaia started there have been monthly donations which yielded, for a while, incredibly rare items such as the Halo, of which only a few dozen exist. Eventually people wised up and started mass donations, bringing the rarity and price of newer items very low.
      • This did not work for the fish, however, since they "died" after a certain amount of time. As a result, most fish were very expensive on the Market Place. After a few years, Gaia gave in to user request and made several fish in Phin Phang available for gold, at low prices, to boot. (though some fish are still cash-only in the store, and must be bought on the MP if one wishes to buy it with gold)
    • Want real evidence that Gaia's in it for the Money, Dear Boy? The MTV sponsor shop has three items being sold Cash-Only. That's right, kids, you're paying real money for an advertisement.
    • After they started the Cash Shop (La Victoire), 90% of the new items were released in said store, with the regular stores (where you used gold to buy stuff) hardly being updated anymore and the only way to get a decent item is to spend ungodly amounts of gold on the user-run marketplace (if you dont want to pay cash for it). They also only keep certain items on the Cash Shop for a certain amount time, at which point, the only way to get it is to buy it on the marketplace. See that shiny new sword you think would look great? Well its $50.99 at La Victoire but 1.9 quintillion gold on the marketplace, good luck.
    • On the other hand, since the Cash Shop came out they've done at least one update to the gold shops every month.
    • And now there are the RIG's, Random Item Generators, cash items that give you a random item, usually through some kind of cute minigame. Many of the top drops from those are just recolors of past popular items, and although there are often unique items among the (often extremely difficult to achieve) victory rewards, there's a MUCH greater chance of failing. The fail-drops are usually so worthless in the MP that it's better to just sell the item back to Gaia for half of its imaginary "store cost", usually less than 10% of what it costs to buy the RIG from the marketplace.
  • Playfish games also have separate coins (generated in-game) and cash (real money) counters. One of their games, Pet Society, is now an Allegedly Free Game.
    • Another Playfish game, Restaurant City, had its players up in arms over a set of limited edition recipes. Players could unlock a karaoke bar and upgrades for it by mastering these recipes within a certain number of days before they became Lost Forever. However, they came in a certain order, and you weren't allowed to start leveling up a recipe until you had mastered the ones that came before it. To make things worse, several of them required large quantities of some of the rarest ingredients in the game. It was incredibly difficult to obtain these ingredients without buying them with Playfish Cash, something that the players have been very bitter about.
  • The arcade version of Shadow Dancer encourages the player to continue by offering them an extra power-up.
  • In OGame, buying Dark Matter allows you to purchase a merchant -that you can use to commerce with your resources- as well as minor benefits called Officers. Despite this being the games primary source of income there are legions of people who viciously hate it, deliberately targeting players who use them.
    • For a bit of context, for much of the original game's history, money-driven upgrades didn't exist (at most there was a "Commander", but it served only as a help for management as well as for certain tasks -for example, possibiliting to send recycler ships to a debris field faster-). Almost the second O Game was bought by Gameforge, they stuck this in, leading to an exodus of players and much rage.
    • Dialed up with the release of 4.0, where they added a huge array of dark-matter items including resource boosters, flat research and build time reducers, the ability to sell ships and defenses back to the game for up to 75% of their base resource cost, and the ability to pay large amounts of dark matter to instantly halve the time of research and production queues; paying this twice instantly completes it, which is a big deal to high-ranking players as research times can become months long. Someone willing to sink massive amounts of cash into the game can now get +40% to the production of every mine they own and instantly complete research projects and build queues. This led to a fairly infamous incident where one player in Universe 35 gained almost 30 million research points the day after 4.0 was published by recycling one of his fleets and pouring the resources into research, which he completed with dark matter. To put that in perspective, the previous #1 researcher only had 16.6 million points in research, and a rank 200 of 5000 account averages about 30 million points total.
    • Partially subverted, since it's possible to get the dark-matter items of version 4.0 (not officers or commander) paying with in-game resources. However, this has the limits of just one per day and the item you get is randomly selected (paying dark matter, however, allows you to try up to two new rolls). Also, dark matter as well as a merchant can be obtained sending ships in expedition missions. However, you get small quantities of the former, and both appear at random (and that's not very usual).
  • The otherwise free online game FarmVille (a Facebook application) allows players to spend real cash on game cash, which comes in the form of both coins and bills. Most items, such as certain buildings, trees or decorations, and nearly all of the animals, can only be purchased with the game's bills, which accumulate very slowly unless you pay real money to get them. Mafia Wars and indeed all the Zynga games also work like this.
    • This is increasingly common in Facebook games. The game Superhero City offers Merit points which can buy instant recharges to complete tasks, the ability to fight again immediately, loads of in game cash, and at least a few items and powers that can only be bought this way. None of it is necessary, but particularly the exclusive items and powers give you an edge on characters that don't have them. Merit points can be earned by recruiting and completing online surveys but the sheer volume of such activities you must do to get enough Merit Points is a bit prohibitive.
    • Likewise the highly enjoyable Mousehunt offers special cheese called Super Brie+ in return for donations. SB+ can be used as a special mouse attractant or be smashed into its component Magic Essence to craft special items/more items per attempt. Some of the better traps require SB+ for their construction. SB+ can be sold and bought on the markeplace for fluctuating amounts of in-game currency depending on supply and demand, and can also be won from the game, albeit very rarely.
    • Zynga's Words with Friends, a Scrabble knockoff, allows you to pay one dollar (or monetary equivalent) for the computer to automatically generate the highest-scoring play. Note that this is not as big of a Game Breaker as it may seem, as high-scoring plays are likely to open up high-scoring plays for opponents too. It is still a ridiculous and controversial advantage though.
  • The Asian-themed martial arts game 9Dragons follows a "mostly free" model. The game can be played for free and items earned off the world, but paying money can grant you access to paid-for buffs from special vendors, as well as give you very powerful items and boosts to experience.
    • Paying is also the only way to get rid of the seizure-inducing, security risk-laden, inappropriate Flash banner ads on top of the game screen. A lot of people quit over that one.
  • Trinity Universe is a odd one: while it is a standard console jRPG, the player can buy item packs for real money. Those packs consist of skills, weapons, armor, accessories and stat raising items that either aren't obtainable normally or are available only at the end of the game and even then take ludicrous amounts of time to obtain since the materials for the necessary Item Crafting recipes are exceedingly rare. Being available from the start of the game also brings them to effectively Game Breaker ranks.
  • All of the Disgaea games have an in-universe variant and Lampshade it. You can bribe members of the dark assembly with items in your bag to rule in your favor making bill passing easier. Of course if that doesn't work you can just force them through battle.
  • BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger lets you pay a small fee to unlock the "Unlimited" forms of some characters, instead of playing for them.
    • BlazBlue: Continuum Shift is even more blatant about it. There are now 15 Unlimited characters to unlock instead of 4, and unlocking them normally now requires clearing the absurdly hard Score Attack mode instead of the difficulty-selectable Arcade Mode.
  • Dofus is an allegedly free game, allowing you access to a limited area and one dungeon of the game without paying (Though you can wander around much of the world, you just can't do much outside of certain areas). Subscriptions, however, also come with prizes. The most interesting of these include special pets (Pets are essentially another piece of equipment) that function differently than normal pets, and are slightly better than regularly accesible pets, and two pieces of equipment that allow you to hide what equipment you are wearing (Useful for PvP, as your opponent doesn't know what to expect). The longer subscription you buy, the better your reward, and there is nothing preventing you from buying two year long subscriptions at once to get two pets or equipment modifiers. However, the game does include a 3 month waiting period on trading these rewards. Combined with the free to play 'version' being little more than a trial account, most people are subscribed and thus most people have at least the two popular subscription pets, and it rarely presents a huge problem.
  • Busou Shinki: Battle Rondo is already a competitive online game based around a toy line, so naturally, the more figures from the line you have, the better your selection of characters and equipment is. However, Konami decided to be even more greedy about it and use an online cash shop to deal in extremely powerful weapons and equipment that cannot be obtained in any other way. Combine this with the average (Japanese) player's Elite Tweak mentality, and it means only someone who knows EXACTLY what they're doing can use figure-only stuff to win.
  • League of Legends is a notable aversion. It's free to play in and of itself, but at first, you'll only have access to ten possible characters out of the 90+ available (rotating weekly). You can buy more with points earned by playing games. You can also pay money to unlock more, yes, and real money is also the only way to get skins for said characters. However, items that actually affect your in-game, particularly "runes" that increase your stats, can only be purchased using the aforesaid points, so there's no way for a player to buy power.
    • Even skins can be purchased without paying any money, as Riot Points can be earned, albeit in small amounts, for going extended periods of time without being reported.
  • The online Mahjong game JanRyuMon gives players a time limit of 5 seconds per turn (which in practice is more like 3 due to the horribly laggy client), but on each turn, players can use a Choukou Ticket to give themselves 15 seconds for that one turn. Choukou Tickets cost 20 yen each (15 or 10 yen if bought in bulk).
  • Bejeweled Blitz started out with a free one-minute version on Facebook, where you competed against your friends to get the most points. Fine. Then, it added the ability to purchase various power-ups with in-game currency... in practice, the only way to get a relatively decent score is with these power-ups, but everyone gained in-game coins at pretty much the same rate. Fine. Then, they changed the game to let you purchase coins with Facebook credits. There we go.
  • Indie MMO Wurm Online tries valiantly to avert this, being built almost entirely around Item Crafting and economics. You start off with all the kit you need to begin the process of acquiring weapons, armour, proper tools and even your own house... The incredibly long process of skill grinding in order to make stuff that you can use or turn a profit on, or else working on someone's massive construction project for wages. (Yes, this game faithfully simulates grueling manual labour.) If you haven't got the patience for this then you may be playing the wrong game, but there's an option to convert real-world money to game currency. On the other hand, the free-trial area lets you level up quite a long way and build up as much cash as you like before taking the plunge into the game proper.
  • Lord of Ultima plays this as straight as can be. Free to play, but one can purchase "diamonds" that in turn allow for the purchase of artifacts that give resources, build-time increases, etc. The game limits how frequently you can use them, though.
  • Even iPhone games are not exempt! The Tower Defense game Tower Madness has the flamethrower tower, pretty much an Infinity+1 Sword and a Game Breaker, as it can do more damage per second than the second best weapon, the nuke. The problem? If you want to unlock the usage of the flamethrower, you gotta buy it with real money first!
    • Tower Madness is far from the only one in the iPhone App store, and in some ways is a mild case. Others urge you to get more apps from a list, few of which are free, to get game currency. Then there a number that move well into Allegedly Free Game territory.
    • Com 2 u S's games, such as Queen's Crown, have an especially exasperating form of bribe. For at least some items, you're required to place a five-star review on the iTunes Store. Yes, you read that correctly—in order to acquire some items, not only do you need to utilize actual cash, you need to help advertise them!
  • The Mighty Eagle in Angry Birds. Send in the eagle to kill every pig instantly! Fortunately, there is a one hour cool down to moderate use.
  • Luna Online follows this trope. The game world is pretty big, making walking painfully slow, but hey! You can buy a time-limited warp scroll at the cash shop! Grinding going a little slowly? Just buy an experience multiplier scroll! Granted, it's completely possible to reach the max level without buying any gPotatoes (the currency you buy with real cash). In fact, a character in June 2010 was featured on the game's website for having done just that (although they did trade in-game gold for the gPs and special items).
    • Flyff, another game hosted by gPotato, is similar. This is a game that is often described as "Free to play, pay to win." Not only can you get pets, faster flying equipment than what you'd get from the NPC, teleportation scrolls, and Exp. multiplier scrolls from the cash shop, among many other things, you also need CS items to keep your gear from breaking if an attempt to upgrade it past +3 fails. Fortunately, it is possible for players to farm dungeons or box drop events (when there's one running) to make penya (in-game currency), which you can trade for CS items or gpots like in Luna.
  • Point Blank - Not to be confused with the Namco game, but this Korean MMOFPS is very successful in Indonesia. And you either need in-game point grinding (since the point reward often painfully small) to buy Cool Guns, or rent (yes, it limited from 3 to 30 days of "purchase") with real cash for instant (or even more) Cool Guns.
  • S4 League is completely free to play... but, those who are willing to shell out real money get slightly more effective weapons, flashier clothes, and will gain levels faster. They also don't have to worry about buying their weapons with in-game currency which is fairly difficult to acquire. On the other hand, the advantage supplied by the paid-for weapons is fairly minimal, and none of them are unique; they're just optionally reskinned versions of the stuff everyone gets. Likewise, the paid-for clothes just look good, they don't offer any concrete tactical advantages.
  • Dragon Age has the Feastday gifts and pranks, paid DLC that lets you bypass the entire approval system by setting them as high or low as you like.
    • It's less then three dollars, so it might be an aversion.
  • Mass Effect 2 has the "Firepower Pack" DLC, which consists of: a Sniper Pistol, an assault rifle which fires sniper-rifle rounds, and a Pure Energy shotgun with a Charged Attack. All are stronger shot-for-shot than any of their non-DLC counterparts. Shoot the heads off a dozen light mechs in a row, splatter mercs with relativistic sledgehammers, and blow away assault mechs with a Mega Buster. Buff up any game, even at the start, for the low low price of 160 Microsoft/Bioware Points!
    • But wait, there's more! The "Aegis Pack" adds an awesome suit of armor and a sniper rifle that is horribly bugged and makes your squadmates almost invincible! Again, for the low low price of 160 Microsoft/Bioware Points!
  • Mass Effect 3 has gotten worse. The game adds multiplayer, which is unlocked via a pack-in DLC or through Xbox Live/PSN—meaning buying the disk used won't get you the whole game. In addition, DLC was available at launch, meaning even you did buy the disk new, you didn't buy the whole game. In addition, equipment packs in multiplayer can be bought for real world money if you don't feel like grinding up cash in-game. XP, at least, must be earned the hard way.
    • The included unlock code on new copies of the game is to discourage used game sales, which in some cases can be considered worse than piracy, due to only the retailer selling the used copy gets the profit instead of the game developers themselves.
  • The "Hunt For The Decepticons" sub-series of Transformers toys is accompanied by a series of online flash games. Technically, you only need three codes (one code in each toy) to unlock the battle with Megatron. However, you can use as many as seven codes to unlock harder minigames to give bonuses during the final battle with Megatron.
  • All Artix Entertainment games (Adventure Quest, Dragon Fable, Mechquest, Warp Force, Epic Duel, and Adventure Quest Worlds) have the basic storyline and most equipment available for free, but the best weapons, armor, Titan quests and battles (best for farming!), and so on are only available to upgraded players and (in the case of equipment) often only for special currency that must be purchased with real-world money. (although small amounts can be gotten rarely in AQ, DF, and MQ) The worst for it is probably AQ; MQ is probably the best, but DF and AQW both have an awful lot of content available for free players.
    • In 2009, Artix Entertainment acquired the game Epic Duel, which had been an independently designed game, and pretty closely fits this trope. It's a PVP game, and upgraded equipment (more stats, more damage, etc) make this quite literally a case of bribing your way to victory.
  • Miss Bimbo is a 'sandbox' game, where buying 'Bimbo Dollars' will only get you more money to get cute clothes and spend on furniture, pet stuff, and various other items that you don't need.
    • Poupeegirl is the same thing, but real money gets you 'jewels' where you can ONLY buy cute clothes are sold in the special shops (some 'celebrity' shops with Japanese fashion icons).
    • To level up in Miss Bimbo, you sometimes do need to buy clothes (sometimes specific - and expensive - outfits, sometime you just need a certain number of items in your wardrobe). Other times you need to have a certain amount of money on hand, a certain amount of "Bimbo Attitude" (which can be increased by things like buying a new hairstyle or paying a therapist), the best available (i.e., most expensive) home, or various other conditions with can definitely be met without paying a cent in real money through your character's in-game job, but can be met much, much, much faster if you're not waiting for your character's paycheck minus expenses to add up.
  • Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 is a fanservice game where you spend time watching cute girls frolic around in a variety of bikinis and other clothing/accessories, all of which you can buy in-game with in-game money. The game has absolutely no online function, but these items are nonetheless purchasable with real-world money - in separate packages for each girl, mind you. Sadly, if you choose to reset the game to play through it again, your unlockable items will be lost, to be acquired again, whether you paid real or virtual money for them.
    • However, purchasing the swimsuits with real money will result in you not unlocking the achievement of having collected the full swimsuit set, taking away any right to brag by unlockig all achievements.
  • Wajas is a breeding/adoptable game, in which you can buy currency called CWP with real money. Several items and features need to be paid for with CWP, and the most expensive stuff can cost as much as $60 USD. Most of what you can buy are either accessories, or custom Wajas, which mostly just sit there and look pretty. It's possible (and encouraged) to buy and sell CWP with in-game currency, but purchasing it this way is a ridiculously expensive and time-consuming method. Especially since the fastest way to earn in-game currency is to... sell the offspring of two custom Wajas. This system is arguably justified, however, since a good deal of the profits goes towards keeping the site running.
  • VDex Project is another Pokemon site that relies on donations. For a relatively small fee, you can buy donation items and Pokemon. The Pokemon are usually based on the game's NPCs, while the items tend to be either cosmetic or offer small gameplay enhancements. Nearly everything can be sold to other players, and unlike many examples it doesn't cost too much in-game money to buy one of these things from someone else.
  • Echo Bazaar allows you to buy Fate with real money. Fate is obtainable in game on very rare occasions, and can be used for mundane functions like restoring your opportunities deck to unlocking new and complex story inlets.
  • Fable III has a potion that can be purchased for 80 msp ($1) on Xbox Live, that maxes out your dog's fighting and item-finding skills.
  • Grand Chase has all characters you don't have at the beginning of the game, surprisingly, possible to obtain without paying, but it can be anything from very tedious to just plain difficult. Buying them allows you to unlock them by just giving up one gem. Job upgrades work like this as well, except it simply asks you to do the same thing, but for a fraction of what you're originally supposed to get (For example, for your 2nd job, you need to get a whopping 300 fragments and 10 hard to obtain Gaikoz seals. Buying it means you only have to get 10 and 1, respectively). Specific weapons, accessories, pets, and skills, on the other hand, have to be purchased.
  • Dawn of War II: Retribution has a DLC pack for each race with equipment to turn your main character into a Disc One Nuke, all for the low, low cost of 1$/1€/1£ per pack. Similar packs exist for the multiplayer Last Stand mode, but fortunately none of these modes are against the computer.
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2 lets you pay $20 to unlock every single weapon in the game. There are also the cheaper SPECACT packages, which allow you to unlock camouflaged versions of a class's final weapon unlock. Though note that there was a time when free codes to unlock the SPECACT packages came with the game.
  • Battlefield Heroes and Battlefield Play4Free are also egregious offenders. Ironic, too, as EA specifically promised this sort of thing wouldn't happen for Heroes.
  • Tales of Vesperia has this, although most of the stuff is rather easy to get later on in the game and none of it is required for 100% completion, and some of it is free to boot.
  • Alien Adoption Agency used to be completely free; the only way to get ahead was being smarter than others. Over time, it became "free to play, but pointless if you want to be the best", as now it's possible to start an account, spend some cash, and have a top-flight account w/o even learning how to play. And the more you spend, the more the one-man owner/coder lets you get away with. Yep, spend enough and it's not only pay2win, you can cheat2win too.
  • In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, if you want to get the best helmet in the game, Queen of Hearts, you have to play through Hard Mode with a level cap (Lvl 1 or Lvl 50 are your initial options). If you want to unlock the ability to set the level cap to 255, you have to play though Hard Mode with level cap set at 1... or you can just buy Castlevania Judgment for the Wii and sync the two games together to get both rewards.
  • Travian is this Up to Eleven.
  • The Fury expansion pack for Wipeout HD unlocks everything you would normally have to unlock through the Campaign.
  • The Ikko-Ikki expansion pack DLC for Shogun 2: Total War gives you a free monk hero unit and access to powerful warrior nuns and monk cavalry units right off the bat in multiplayer. They tend to be vastly superior to the light cavalry and ashigaru you have access to at that point, although their in-game purchase price (the monk hero costs as much to add to your army as 4 units of ashigaru bowmen alone) reflect this.
    • The Sengoku unit pack further adds unique, clan-exclusive units, and adds a free veteran version of each to your roster in multiplayer. Most of these units are slightly superior, slightly more expensive versions of base units, but some (like the Tokugawa mounted gunners) are truly unique and are really useful for a starting player.
  • In the Web Game Adventure Kingdom, Gems can be purchased from the store which can be then be utilized for multiple purposes. Namely, buying more stamina, better equipment, and of course, some of the skills.
  • World of Tanks features gold consumables which can boost your performance a bit more than regular ones or fix multiple crew/modules at once. It also features gold ammo, which can turn an otherwise unwinnable matchup into a Curb Stomp Battle. Usually though, they just increase armor penetration and make otherwise mediocre gun strong.
    • Most notably, the Konisch gun. It's standard ammo has good armor penetration but abysmal damage. Gold ammo, however, allows it to hit harder than a gun it's size with armor penetration that isn't matched for another two tiers, and combined with the high rate of fire, excellent accuracy and aim time... it's a complete Game Breaker hampered only by the obscene expense of gold in this game.
    • Another Game Breaker is the premium Hotchkiss light tank. Not unbeatable... unless you're one of the new players that encounter it in the starting matches and thus haven't learned it's few weak points, or are mounting a 20mm gun that many early tanks use which can't damage it at all. (Unless, of course, you use gold ammo. That'll go right through it.) One player fought 400 matches using only the Tier 2 Hotchkiss... and then bought an end-of-line Tier 9 Panther II thanks to all the xp they gained.
  • Sryth has Adventurer Tokens (ATs for short). There’s a very limited number of ATs in the game and some of those need to be spent on certain must-have items such as a Quickstone, a grand residence, access to the Battlegrounds, and Varkyn's Ring of Motley Wonder (each of those expenses is absolutely necessary). That leaves you with a limited supply of ATs and they are the only currency accepted at Tallys' Trading Post. But you can get more by donating. In fact, this is the only way to get the best of Tallys' stuff. Some players are known to have donated over a 1000 US dollars (estimates based on the AT cost of their gear). But even without the best stuff your character can be like a god early in the game, for example if you buy all the Dragongem armor pieces: The cost is 1324 ATs and the bonuses are +45 MR and +109 SP (and that’s without taking into account the weapon and shield equipped). For comparison, your character can start with (at most) 32 MR and at most 36 SP. Fortunately you don’t need to donate – the negative side of not buying any of Tallys’ items is that your character will likely never have stats as high as those of the people who donated large amounts. In other words:
    • Some fights will be challenging, so you’ll need to think a bit, mostly about which items to use and in what order
    • You’ll likely never hold the top spot on the Battlegrounds challenges, and even if you do get a top spot you’re unlikely to keep it for long. Fortunately the top spots give nothing but bragging rights
  • The Web Game Khan Wars has Coins (you can get 95 coins for free, and have to buy the rest) and A LOT of things you can use them for. In theory: The paid options of the game are made in a way so that they don't disturb the balance in the game. They are designed to help save time of the players who decided to use them. In reality things are different. Here’s a list of what you can do with coins:
    • An overview of most options can be found here
    • Veteran upgrades – you can pay for them with resources or with coins. If you pay with resources the time for completing the upgrade is 12 times longer than if you pay with coins. For example, in one of the game’s worlds the veteran upgrades take 5 five hours if you pay 200 coins, or 60 (!) hours if you pay with resources (so if you use coins you can complete 12 upgrades while another player completes 1 such upgrade for the same time)
    • There are some things that “encourage” players to buy and use coins, such as: the fact that some of the Achievements that got added in version 3.1 require you to use some of the paid options a certain number of times (“Buy resources 3 days in a row”); the Loyal Customers Programme (details here); and the semi-regular various promotions
    • Promotions – there have been various promotions (and there will be many more in the future, no doubt). Some give extra coins, for example 30% extra, so you get 130 coins at the cost of 100 coins. Others allow you to use the options listed above a lot more frequently, such as: buying resources once every 12 hours instead of every 24; completing buildings once every 12 hours instead of every 24; using rituals once every 12 hours instead of every 24… Each promotion lasts several days, so it is possible to have 2 promotions active at the same time.
  • Diablo III is getting into the act as well, though they're doing things a bit differently. The in-game auction house will let you buy an item for either in-game gold or real-world money, depending on what the seller listed it for. Unlike most of the examples however, Blizzard has said they won't list items on the AH themselves, so all transactions are strictly run by the players. It's also possible to sell items for "real-world" money and then use the profits to buy stuff for yourself, and never actually spend your own money.
  • Played with in Gears of War 3. Roughly half the DLC in the game is simple cosmetic weapon skins, a few of which are packed in with each major DLC release. The Horde Command Pack is an odd use of this trope, as it unlocks new levels of fortification for everything but walls in Horde (including rockets for the Silverback, an armored version of the top-level turret, and the ability to turn a decoy into an Onyx Guard with a shotgun), as well as the new Command Center fortification (starts as a sniper attack, upgrades eventually make it an on-command multishot from the Hammer of Dawn). Somewhat obnoxiously, players with and without the Command Pack will be organized into the same games, and the entire team will fair better if there's at least one team member with the Command Pack. So you essentially Bribe You and Your Team's Way to Victory.
  • Cosmic Break must be one of the worst offenders in history with ultra rare limited edition robots you must roll for in a lotto style random generator that costs $5 per roll. There are videos on Nico Nico Douga and Youtube of players spending in excess of $1000 for a single robot. It's so awful that even if you pay cash money for robots in the standard shop not one of them can compete with the literal game breakers such as Ivis, Toybox Girl, Aquila Girl, or Vanguard Fencer. Add to that the parts on garapon robots are all 3 slotted, 2 slotted on most shop (non random) robots and 1 slot on the free robots and that slot protectors (there is a 50% chance or more any upgrade will fail) are $3 each and you quickly realize that a non cash paying player has no chance whatsoever to compete.
    • Oh, did I mention the game is 95% PVP?
  • In Deus Ex Human Revolution, the AUD (Automatic Unlocking Device) that allows the player to completely bypass one hacking minigame of any skill level is available only to the owners of Augmented and Collector's Editions. It's the only bonus item that can be bought normally in the in-game shops. Also, you start the game 10,000 credits richer.
    • Using an AUD does, however, prevent you from gaining any XP you might earn from completing the hack and discovering any XP and credit bonuses within the hacked system. Not a big deal for the really low level stuff, but you can miss out on a lot of XP and a tidy sum of extra income if you rely on them too much. The 10,000 credits are a bigger deal, since you can buy two Praxis Kits (5,000 each!) from the clinic and unlock extra implants right away.
    • AUDs are also relatively rare (in comparison to vast numbers of locks) and harder the security may be easily bypassed by collected viruses. Two Praxis kits give some edge but, truth be told, are by no means a gamebreaker. Furthermore, the game is single-player only and Augmented Edition comes with an additional side mission, so it isn't a simple 'power pack'.
  • BioShock (series) has a bizarre in universe example. Thanks to the hyper capitalist nature of Rapture, you can literally buy the security systems that are supposed to be keeping you out and use them on enemies instead.
  • World of Warcraft added this with the ability to buy a tradable in game pet for $10 which typically goes for 5000G - 7000G depending on your server. The highest level gear you can buy from other players typically costs between 5000G - 25000G, and the very rare in game pet goes for around 12000G. For the rich, you can get the ability to transform into a dragon for around 30000G (most of that is money spent on NPC bought items). Turning into a dragon is mostly for show as it has the same effect as riding a dragon, flying carper, helicopter, or various large birds, except you can carry someone on your back. Blizzard states they did this to reduce illicit real money trading.
    • The blizzard store has defied this in regards to paying real money to win. Their unshakeable stance is that they'll never make the players pay for something that will increase the quality of the gameplay drastically.
  • The IOS Mega Man X "port" has probably the stupidest example yet: You can buy all the weapons and health upgrades in the game with real money from the very beginning, making the main draw of the game effectively pointless. Of course, the reaction wasn't at all positive.
  • Battlestar Galactica Online: Many high-end items, including big starships and all the way to literal experience-buying, need cubits for purchase. You can spend days grinding for the things by doing assignments and hoping the Random Number God gives you the right drops... or you can just fork up the real-world cash.
  • Star Trek Online generally averts this when it comes to starships—while non-endgame C-Store ships are definitely upgrades over ships of that level, the player will inevitably outlevel them, though with luck and skill one can take them further than that. Moreover, all C-Store ship purchases become account-wide unlocks for any character of that faction at that level which (along with any exclusive equipment) may be claimed as many times as the player wants, and said equipment may be carried over onto any other ship that is qualified to use that equipment. Finally, the endgame C-Store ships are mostly sidegrades that have at least one disadvantage compared to the free endgame ships and only mild advantages... though anyone going up against an Odyssey or a Bortasqu' may disagree.
  • In RuneScape, you can spend real money to get extra spins on the 'Squeal of Fortune', whose prizes include things like XP, rare items, and in-game money.
  • Played with in the iOS port of DoDonPachi Blissful Death. Version 1.0.2 added "Custom Edit" options to make the game easier, such as starting with more lives, and most of these can only be unlocked by buying them with real money. But playing with any of these options turned on disqualifies you for the high score rankings. So about the only thing they're good for is letting unskilled players experience the True Final Boss.
  • Also from CAVE, Smartphone Mode in Death Smiles has powerful DLC equipment, although unlike most other games, the DLC is at best a Disc One Nuke, none of the items are consumable (and they can all be restored if you lose your save data), and the best equipment in the game can't be bought. The exception is the Lucky Charm, which plays this trope painfully straight - it's the single most expensive DLC item in the game at $4[1] and triples the item drop rate when equipped.
  • Honkai Impact 3rd: While no gameplay content is outright locked out to truly free players, the best Valkyries and equipment are only available through gacha that use the "crystal" premium currency. Crystals can be gained in small quantities through gameplay, or their acquisition can be sped up with real cash. Better types of Battle Passes and other resource-granting bundles can also be acquired using a different kind of premium currency called "B-Chips".

Other Media

  • In the UK, there is a mathematical competition called the Senior Mathematical Challenge. There are also 2 follow-on rounds, the British Mathematical Olympiad Round 1 and Round 2. You need a certain score in each competition to advance to the next. That is, unless you pay a fee (£16.50 for Round 1, £22 for Round 2). So you can be really good at maths, yet be in the final round with people who are terrible at math, but paid the fee.

Real Life

  • This has long been a routine strategy indulged in by (of course) the Byzantine Empire among others.
  • During World War II it was regular practice among the British to keep a store of gold coins with the motif of St George stamped on them for paying off irregulars and spies. This was known as "St George's cavalry".


Anime and Manga

Newspaper Comics

  1. Formerly $6 when first released, and occasionally lowered to 99 cents during sales, although these only happen about twice a year.